There is no correlation between the number of officer-involved shooting incidents and attacks on police officers. Being consistent is essential when it comes to collecting data. Otherwise, there are discrepancies like the one regarding the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) officer-involved shootings. This confusion does not contribute to the image of transparency the LAPD wants to project.
For example, if someone threatens 15 police officers with a knife or gun, the incident is counted as 15 assaults against police officers. At the same time, if during this incident, the 15 officers shoot at the suspect, it is considered as a single shooting.
That is how the LAPD records its statistics about the use of violence against its officers, according to the report that LAPD Inspector General Alex Bustamante presented to the Police Commission.
The problem is that Chief Charlie Beck is using data collected in this manner to explain that there is a correlation between the number of officer-involved shootings and attacks on them, and therefore explain the increase in shootings.
The chief’s explanation is based on poor math, because the LAPD does not count the incidents in the same way. On the one hand, it counts the number of officers when they get threatened, but it only counts the number of incidents when these officers are involved in a shooting.
This does not mean the LAPD is violating any laws. Also, it is very possibly true that the Police Department is following guidelines imposed from outside the department. But it is not right for Chief Beck to mix apples and oranges to sweeten how he explains shooting statistics.
The best for the LAPD would be to follow the Inspector General’s recommendation to standardize the way statistics on police use of force are collected. That way, the causes for the increase in shooting incidents can be known with more certainty.
This will avoid confusion and doubt about the LAPD’s transparency in cases as delicate as those involving police use of force.